New Mexicans should be suspicious of secretary of state’s anti-privacy rulemaking


COMMENTARY: Doug Nickle’s recent column (“Campaign reporting proposal creates necessary, nation-leading disclosure in NM) is an example of Orwellian doublespeak at its best.

Bradley Smith

Courtesy photo

Bradley Smith

Nickle’s purpose is to drum up support for “Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver’s proposed rules and regulations addressing campaign finance reporting,” which, Nickle notes, is based on legislation that was vetoed by Governor Martinez earlier this year due to her concerns about the invasion of privacy triggered by the legislation. So, Nickle now wants Oliver to impose the failed legislation through bureaucratic fiat.

(Editor’s note: Oliver did just that last week, after this column was submitted for publication.)

Mr. Nickle, please check your old copies of “how a bill becomes a law.”

Worse than Nickle’s push for the bureaucracy to overrule New Mexico’s ordinary legislative process is the doublespeak behind Nickle’s arguments. Basically, the rules that Oliver and Nickle want would require public disclosure of the names and home addresses of donors to various nonprofit organizations. Donors have many reasons to keep this information private. Often, those reasons are religious. Others simply want to maintain their privacy. Increasingly, it’s because citizens fear discrimination or harassment for themselves and their families by their neighbors, children’s teachers, and their bosses — or bullying by online mobs if they give to the “wrong” groups.

But Nickle thinks the government should, under penalty of law, require donors to nonprofit organizations (such as Planned Parenthood or the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club), trade associations, and think tanks to have their financial contributions and personal information reported to the government, which will then publicize that info in a permanent, searchable online database.

Paul Gessing

Courtesy photo

Paul Gessing

Nickle tries to bolster support for this invasion of privacy by raising fears about “George Soros and the Koch Brothers” and “dark money,” an undefined phrase he uses no fewer than five times in an effort to diminish the long-standing freedom Americans have to give to causes of their choice – without having to report it to the government.

But in the end, maybe it’s Nickle, and the rules he supports, that should arouse our suspicions.

Even as Nickle urges support for rules reducing citizen privacy, he avers that the organization he lobbies for, Take Back Our Republic, “believe[s] in the individual’s right to both privacy and free speech” and “[t]hat’s why we support New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver’s proposed rules and regulations.” When the stated purpose of rules is to reduce personal privacy, yet a person tells you he supports them because he believes in privacy, perhaps it is time to be suspicious.

Noting that supporters of privacy have argued that “transparency is for government; privacy is for people,” Nickle also claims, “We couldn’t agree more – which is why we point out that the privacy of any individual or group who gives within the legally prescribed threshold is fully protected; their personal information remains undisclosed.” In other words, your privacy is protected, but only until it crosses a “legally prescribed threshold,” at which point your information will be posted online by government order.

If someone is telling you that in order to protect your privacy, you have to allow the government to post your private information online, it is time to be suspicious.

New Mexico already requires public disclosure of individuals who donate to candidate campaigns, political parties, and PACs. What Secretary Oliver, Mr. Nickle, and Take Back Our Republic seek is compelled disclosure going far beyond these traditional boundaries.


Nickle ends by telling readers that the secretary’s regulations are “not about the government imposing more regulation, or trying to gain more access to our personal lives.” But of course, he and his organization support imposing what he twice calls in the same column – “rules and regulations” – that would give the government (and everyone with an internet connection) more access to New Mexicans’ personal information.

So maybe it’s about “more regulation” after all. When you hear such Orwellian doublespeak, it is indeed time to be very suspicious.

Bradley A. Smith, who served on the Federal Election Commission from 2000 to 2005, is chairman and founder of the Center for Competitive Politicsthe nation’s largest organization dedicated solely to protecting First Amendment political rights. Paul Gessing is the president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, an independent, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility. Agree with their opinion? Disagree? welcomes your views. Learn about submitting your own commentary here.

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